Usually Quite Blessed

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Salt and Light (Public Glory)

Read the my first letter to my local Christian Station.

They kindly responded and asked for clarification, since death is a properly biblical motivator, and the Bible is about more than just salvation.  This being granted, I still felt the same way, and this is my response:

Dear [STATION],

Thank you for your response.  Please hear that I trust your motivation as a Christian, and I am happy to be connected by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus to all the good people at [STATION].

I guess that I should be more specific about what I am thinking about for each of the songs I mentioned.

I think the basic idea behind the song isn’t a bad one, the idea of telling ourselves that bad choices have bad consequences is a true and motivating one.  I agree completely about this.  But there is a qualitative difference between Steven Curtis Chapman’s Heaven is the Face and 33 Miles’ One Life to Love.   I say this as someone who lost a father and an unborn daughter in the same year, and I say this as someone who is really okay listening to the very painful Heaven is the Face.  It makes me weep at times, and I don’t mind it.  I think it is a beautiful, helpful and compassionate song.

The difference seems to be that One Life to Love is a country song standing in the long tradition of Country songs capitalizing on pain for entertainment.  Outside of the Christian market, MUCH country music is exactly the same, often making a point, I am sure, but still the genre as a whole often focuses on telling cleverly poignant stories. 33 Miles seems to be doing exactly the same thing, and without any reference to Jesus as a remedy or as a motivator, or as a power for change or healing.  The song could be played in any market because of no reference to God beyond “prayer.”  Granted, you can talk about Jesus on a country station, but this song just makes me listen to two woefully sad stories of people who can’t fix their problems.

My wife is reminding me that one issue in the songs is that since 33 Miles gives me no hope in the song, it leaves many of us thinking about bad choices WE have made, but we don’t get to fix it, we just have to sit through two stories and a chorus condemning us without a way out or up.  The song says, there are people who make bad choices, and I hope you don’t do that.  But it has no reference to the only context that makes such things make sense.

Heaven is the Face is about loss, and the safety of Jesus, and the love of the God who helps us in loss.  Natalie Grant’s Held is the same way.  I love those songs, despite the pain.  I am not complaining about pain, but about the basically hopeless message in One Life to Love.

Christmas Shoes is not flippant, and it isn’t Jesus-less.  But Christmas Shoes is just so painful that I can’t stand to hear it.  These songs place us in the moment of the people who are waiting for an extremely tragic thing to happen.  A man is about to die of cancer.  A little boy is about to lose Momma to premature death.

I have been turning the radio off as soon as I hear Christmas Shoes for years.  So, I am not an undiscerning listener who can’t take any truthful use of pain, or motivation through the fact of death.  But even if the distinction is easiest to see through the feelings of your listeners, the difference is illustrated in that I change the station when Christmas Shoes and One Life to Love come on.  And I turn up the volume when Heaven is the Face comes on.  I turn UP the volume when Newsong’s Most Wonderful Time of the Year comes on, from the same album.

Please know that I pray for the benefit of your station and your blessing to your listeners, and I am usually quite blessed by the music that I hear.

Thank your for your kind words and listening ear.

Blessings,

Luke Welch

How do you feel about music like this?

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One Response to Usually Quite Blessed

  1. I am intriqued how some traditional Christmas songs have a generally melancholy tone, ie. Silver Bells (no pun intended), White Christmas, The Christmas Song. A yearning for home, I suppose. And although I’ve heard these songs a million times, I still like them! Songs like Christmas Shoes feels manipulative, in the same vein as Butterfly Kisses. I can’t take that stuff! I don’t deny they tug at the heart strings, but it’s like they have been worked by a skilled puppeteer/marketeer and there’s a certain level of sappinesss, which to me, is intolerable! I’m sure some people cry when they watch soap operas, but I can think of a million better ways to spend my time and tears!

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